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The Supreme Court on Thursday sought replies from the Centre and some private hospital organisations on capping corona treatment costs in private hospitals.

Supreme Court Bench of Chief Justice S. A. Bobde, Justice AS Bopanna and Justice Hrishikesh Roy heard petition filed by lawyer Sachin Jain, seeking a cap on the amount charged by private hospitals in treating COVID 19 patients, and the tariff under Ayushmann Bharat should be made applicable to everybody.

On the last hearing, the SC had asked the government to identify private hospitals, especially those that received land at a concessional rate from the government, which could treat Covid-19 patients either free or for nominal fees.

In today’s hearing, the CJI noted: “There is an earlier judgment of Justice Lodha that says these hospitals should treat certain number of patients for free. we are only talking of hospitals running on land given by the government or charitable trusts. Please ensure they do some service. Why can’t these hospitals treat a certain number of patients for free?”

Senior lawyer Harish Salve, appearing for Healthcare Federation, told the Bench that “anybody who has received land from govt on concessional rates do provide free beds and treatment. There is a judgment to this extent. 25% of our beds are free”.

 “Revenues for hospitals have fallen. People have stopped coming to hospitals due to COVID reasons. Ayushman Bharat is a heavily discounted scheme. Private hospitals revenue is down by 60  to 70 percent,” Salve said. Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for an association of hospitals, highlighted the plight of private hospitals.

“Sir Ganga Ram hospital has been converted into a COVID hospital. No business is left and it will lead to closing down of hospitals if the prayers are complied with.”

CJI Bobde then remarked: “You are making a sacrifice for a good cause.”

Demanding the tariff under Ayushmann Bharat should be made applicable to everybody, petitioner Sanjay Jain said: “Covid-19 treatment,  packages are well defined and are available in Ayushman Bharat. The average daily bill is Rs 4000. But, the hospital charges Rs. 50000 from the adjoining patient who is not the beneficiary under the scheme.”

The Bench then asked the petitioner whether an only-cost basis treatment for private hospitals dealing with COVID-19 treatment would be acceptable. Jain also said that the government should support citizens and not corporate hospitals.

“The Health minister has also said that in this crisis we have to involve the private sector as a key partner,” said Jain.

Appearing for the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta interjected, “Ayushman Bharat is a scheme devised by the government with identified categories of beneficiaries, like rag pickers, daily wage workers etc. All people who can’t afford are covered by this scheme, but the petitioner wants to make it applicable to all. We have put in our affidavit how it works. The petitioner is saying that the government is supporting private hospitals but the government is doing its best for lowest strata of the society.”

The Court asked the Centre and some private hospital organisations to file their reply and posted the matter for final arguments after two weeks.

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